Four current and former employees of News Corp.’s tabloid The Sun were among five men arrested on bribery allegations as a year-long police investigation spreads to Britain’s best-selling daily newspaper.
Officers searched company offices in London and made the arrests with the help of a News Corp. committee set up to assist Operation Elveden, a probe into inappropriate payments to police, the company said in a statement yesterday. It said the arrests were the result of News Corp. “proactively” providing information to a U.K. bribery investigation.
The arrests came the day after News Corp. Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch indicated he’s preparing to move to the company’s headquarters in New York, a plan that was delayed last year by the bribery and phone-hacking scandal, in which more than 20 people have been arrested, though no one has been charged.
“News Corp. made a commitment last summer that unacceptable news gathering practices by individuals in the past would not be repeated,” the company said.
The four arrested employees are The Sun’s head of news Chris Pharo, crime editor Mike Sullivan, former deputy editor Fergus Shanahan and former managing editor Graham Dudman, according to two people familiar with the matter, who declined to be named because the information isn’t public.
The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that four men were arrested on suspicion of corruption. A fifth person, a serving officer in the Territorial Policing command, was detained at the central London station where he works, it said.
All five men were later bailed “pending further inquiries,” the Met said in a separate statement.
Miranda Higham, a News Corp. spokeswoman, and Alan Crockford, a spokesman for the police, declined to identify the employees or comment on the arrests beyond the statements. Contacts details for Pharo, Sullivan, Shanahan and Dudman weren’t available via the Internet.
Yesterday’s arrests aren’t the first time News Corp.’s Management and Standards Committee has acted on information uncovered during internal reviews. The company last year fired Matt Nixson, a features editor at The Sun who previously worked at the News of the World.
In court documents filed in response to an employment lawsuit, the MSC said Nixson had agreed to pay a prison guard for information and had failed to raise an objection when he received an e-mail about phone hacking.
The arrests come ahead of a potential start of a Sunday edition of the Sun to succeed the News of the World. The publication will probably be called The Sun on Sunday, with the first edition expected to go on sale on April 29, the Independent newspaper reported yesterday, without saying how it got the information. Daisy Dunlop, a spokeswoman for News Corp.’s U.K. publishing unit News International, declined to comment on “speculation.”
Operation Elveden was set up last year to investigate alleged bribes paid to officers by News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid, which was shuttered in July 2011 as a result of a phone-hacking scandal.
News International is facing police probes of phone hacking, computer hacking and bribery and has agreed to pay more than 5 million pounds ($7.9 million) to settle dozens of lawsuits filed by victims of phone hacking.
In the phone-hacking probe, called Operation Weeting, police have made at least 17 arrests since the probe started about a year ago.
James Murdoch, the son of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, is leaving the board of London-based GlaxoSmithKline Plc after less than three years as he’s moving to New York, the U.K. drugmaker said this week. Murdoch’s strategy adviser for Europe, Matthew Anderson, is stepping down and moving to San Francisco, News Corp. said separately.
James Murdoch was named deputy chief operating officer last March, four months before reports of voicemail interception by tabloid journalists in the U.K. forced News Corp. to drop its bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. U.K. lawmakers are currently preparing a report about Murdoch’s role in the scandal and may publish their findings in coming weeks.
The fallout of the scandal also led to the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, the CEO of News International, and Les Hinton, head of the Dow Jones & Co. division who had previously worked in the U.K.
Murdoch joined News Corp.’s U.K. publishing unit News International as chairman in December 2007, after the hacking took place. Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.